CliF Notes

A curriculum for families and small groups


October 2017

Where did it All Come From?


Week One – October 1st

Where did it All Come From? – The Big Bang


Note: This is a lesson in which the ability of children of different ages to understand the material will vary wildly – as will their interest in different activities. You will need to consider the ages of the children you are addressing and adapt accordingly using the resources provided.


Supplies Needed:

Question bowl, bell, supplies depending on activity chosen below




Chalice Lighting (Note: if you don’t have a chalice you can either look for something like a compote dish that has a fairly shallow bowl on a pedestal or make one using a terra cotta flower pot for the base and the matching saucer glued on top for the bowl. Tea lights make an easy and safe flame, but votive candles work fine, too.)

We light this flame to guide our search for truth, and to remind us to look on the world with bright eyes, and to meet the world with warm hearts.




We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)


Or, for older kids:


In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.


Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.


The Question Bowl

Hold the bowl which you decorated in session one, your question bowl. Introduce question time with something like:

This month, our theological question will be “Where did everything come from?” We’re going to have a moment of silence to think about what questions come up in our minds when we ask the big question “Where did everything come from?” At the end of the silence I’ll ring the bell. Then we’re going to pass around our question bowl, and you’re welcome to say any questions that come to mind for you when you thing about how the universe came to exist. (As leader, you might want to start of with examples such as “What was before the beginning?” or “Did God make the universe?” or “Why is there something instead of nothing?”)



As far as we know, people have been wondering how we got here for as long as there have been people. At different times and in different places different cultures have come up with their own explanations of how people – and everything else – came to be, and what it means that we are here. We’re going to be looking at some of these stories this month, and creating our own stories, too. But this week we’re going to start with a story of creation that’s special because it isn’t just a story – although some parts of it may seem hard to believe. We’re going to talk this week about the scientific story of creation, our current best understanding of how the universe really began, and how there came to be people.



The scientific story of the universe goes back about 13 billion years. That’s 13 with nine zeros after it. A really, really, really long time. It happened all in an instant, in a tiny, microscopic fraction of a second. There was an incredibly tiny hugeness, a smashed-together intensity that exploded in the most enormous of flashes, making something where before there was nothing. Not empty space, not blackness, nothing. And then a flash, and then the tiniest of tiny particles, not even atoms, rushing out into space, crashing into each other, making new particles, still tinier than atoms. But in the tremendous energy of that first explosion, which even scientists call the Big Bang, the tiniest of tiny particles slammed together hard enough to make the simplest atoms, hydrogen and helium. And then, across the hugeness of space and over the vastness of time, gravity pulled those atoms of hydrogen and helium together so tightly that atoms started fusing together and glowing and became stars. Inside the stars hydrogen atoms became helium atoms and helium atoms fused into atoms of carbon and oxygen. Across the millions and billions of years stars burnt out and exploded, casting new elements into the universe. Some giant stars blazed so bright that they burnt out in only millions of years. Some little stars burned for hundreds of billions of years, never giving off anything more complicated than helium. New stars pulled together from the gases let off by dying stars.

As matter squished together and stars began to form, a star appeared where the Sun is now, within the Milky Way Galaxy. After lighting up with fusion and burning its usable hydrogen and other larger elements, the star exploded, sending matter out in all directions. Once again, through the force of gravity, this matter eventually cooled and collected in a few key areas, forming the planets and the asteroid belt, made up of a grouping of rocks huge and tiny, that are too small to be planets. Some early planets may have crashed into other early planets, creating larger planets, moons, or possibly space rocks. In the meantime, a smaller star formed at the center of the earlier explosion, becoming the medium-sized yellow star that we call the Sun.

Our young earth got off to a rocky start, including slamming into another planet, which sent huge chunks of rock flying off into space. But gravity brought those rocks together to form the moon, and the pull of the moon’s gravity helped to make the earth’s rotation stable, setting up conditions that made life possible. It’s hard to give too much detail in a story that goes on for billions of years. (Older kids especially may enjoy looking at the animated timeline at Move the arrow pointer along to see what happens, using the timeline on the bottom when you get one.) But slowly, slowly, over billions of years, the interactions of elements, combined with the energy of lightning, created conditions that made life possible. Here’s a very basic timeline:

On our 4.6 billion year old Earth, we have had (very approximately):

  • 4 billion years of simple cells (prokaryotes),
  • 3 billion years of photosynthesis, the process by which plant cells gain energy from sunlight,
  • 2 billion years of complex cells (eukaryotes),
  • 1 billion years of multicellular life,
  • 600 million years of simple animals,
  • 570 million years of arthropods, the ancestors of insects, spiders, crabs and such
  • 550 million years of complex animals
  • 500 million years of fish
  • 475 million years of land plants,
  • 400 million years of insects and seeds,
  • 360 million years of amphibians such as frogs and newts,
  • 300 million years of reptiles such as crocodiles, lizards, snakes and dinosaurs,
  • 200 million years of mammals, animals with fur who give birth to live babies,
  • 150 million years of birds,
  • 130 million years of flowers,
  • 65 million years since the non-bird dinosaurs died out and
  • 2 million years since humans started looking like they do today.

Human beings are very much newcomers to the scene of life on this earth, and things we consider important parts of being human, like writing, have only been around for thousands of years. Which, of course, is a very long time. But isn’t much compared to the billions of years that our earth has been around. However, human beings, plants, animals, distant stars, everything is made up of the elements created by stars, flung across the universe from that first Big Bang. We are all, every one of us, made out of star stuff, part of the very same thing.


What activity you choose will probably need to vary, depending on the ages of children involved. Some possibilities include:


Do the play “Startull, the Story of an Average Yellow Star”, found at which has four characters, and can be read without advance preparation by older kids who can read fluently .

Have kids string beads to indicate major epochs in the scientific story of creation. See details at -- or do a much simpler version.

Have kids create stars, planets, plants and/or animals out of modeling clay that can be baked hard. These creations, if small, can become beads for the above project.

Make cookies. Explain that just as different elements (flour, sugar, eggs, etc.) come together and, with the heat energy of the oven become something quite different than the ingredients that went in, so the different elements created through the energy of the original big bang, and through the energy of forces such as gravitation, have become everything that surrounds us.



Sing “Blue Boat Home” by Peter Mayer. This song is #64 in Singing the Journey, the new supplement to our UU hymnbook. The lyrics are below -- you can find the song on YouTube at


Though below me, I feel no motion
Standing on these mountains and plains
Far away from the rolling ocean
Still my dry land heart can say
I've been sailing all my life now
Never harbor or port have I known
The wide universe is the ocean I travel
And the earth is my blue boat home

Sun, my sail, and moon my rudder
As I ply the starry sea
Leaning over the edge in wonder
Casting questions into the deep
Drifting here with my ship's companions
All we kindred pilgrim souls
Making our way by the lights of the heavens
In our beautiful blue boat home

I give thanks to the waves upholding me
Hail the great winds urging me on
Greet the infinite sea before me
Sing the sky my sailor's song
I was born upon the fathoms
Never harbor or port have I known
The wide universe is the ocean I travel
And the earth is my blue boat home


Week Two – October 8th

Where Did it All Come From – Genesis


Supplies Needed: Depends on activities chosen, but could include music for dancing or a variety of art supplies


Chalice Lighting:


We light this flame to guide our search for truth, and to remind us to look on the world with bright eyes, and to meet the world with warm hearts.




We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)


Or, for older kids:


In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.



Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.



Introduction: One of the most famous stories of how everything came to be is in the very beginning of the Hebrew scriptures, what is sometimes called the Old Testament. There are actually two different stories in the Hebrew Scriptures of how everything came to be—the story we will tell here, and the story that you may have heard that includes Adam and Eve and a snake. As far as we know, people have been trying to puzzle out how everything came to be for about as long as there have been people, so it should be no surprise that there are lots of different stories!



This story is based on the first of two versions of the creation story found in Hebrew scripture in the Book of Genesis, Chapters 1 and 2. It comes from Stories in Faith: Exploring Our Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources Through Wisdom Tales by Gail Forsyth-Vail (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, 2007).

Designate volunteers to take the roles of "Appreciating Voice" and "Bible Voice." Have adult co-leaders read aloud the respective roles, or invite participant volunteers who are strong readers to do it. Allow volunteers an opportunity to read the text ahead of time, so they will be comfortable reading it aloud.

Before beginning the story, you may like to paraphrase or read aloud for the group the introductory matter that precedes the first piece spoken by the "Appreciating Voice."

To make this story more interactive, and to give the children an experience of speaking biblical words, you might instruct the listeners to repeat back the last sentence, each time "Bible Voice" speaks.

In this version, man and woman are created together, both in the image of God. The seven-day creation story, while not scientifically accurate, contains ancient wisdom. It is a hymn of praise to all of creation, poetry that names and lingers over all the wonders of the world. It is presented here as a reading in two voices: a "Bible voice" that is the text itself, and an "Appreciating Voice" that lingers in gratitude and praise over the wonders enumerated in the text.


In this well-known passage of scripture, God "talks the world into being." God’s actions bring order out of chaos. God divides, differentiates, and categorizes, bringing about the order of night and day, sea and sky, plants and animals. By naming things God identifies each as separate and different from one another. In turn each is given meaning. The God of Genesis blesses each creature. This gesture acknowledges, rather than confers, the sacredness of all living things. It invites us also to name and bless all of the wonders of our world.

Appreciating Voice:

Sometimes, when I look up at the stars, or feel the rain on my face, or hear the buzzing of a bee, I wonder where it all comes from. How did we begin? I know the wisdom that comes from science, which says that microscopic one-celled creatures evolved over millions of years into countless complicated forms of life. But sometimes, when I behold the wonder of it all, I love to hear the words spoken long ago by the ancient Hebrews about how the earth and the sky and all things living were called into being and blessed by the Spirit of Life we sometimes call God.

Bible Voice:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness. A wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God called the light Day, and the darkness Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Appreciating Voice:

From the beginning, light and darkness, activity and rest, day and night.

Bible Voice:

And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

Appreciating Voice:

From the mountaintop, the treetop, the airplane, or our own backyards, we see the daytime clouds and nighttime stars that reach further than we can even imagine. From the canoe, the rocky bluff, or the sandy shore, we see the vastness of the sea, deeper and wider than we can fully understand. In the presence of sky or of sea, we feel connected to the mystery of life.

Bible Voice:

And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear." And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were called together Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it." And it was so. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

Appreciating Voice:

Chestnuts, acorns, dandelions, and beans—each carries the beginning of a brand-new plant. We plant apple seeds and peach pits, wheat, peas, and corn. We watch day by day for the avocado seed in a glass to sprout or the bean to split and put down roots. We are grateful for the plants and the trees that bring us beauty, joy, and good food—and for those plants that protect themselves with thorns, poison leaves, and tall, winding branches.

Bible Voice:

And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years." God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And there was evening, and there was morning, the fourth day.

Appreciating Voice:

We give thanks for the orbit of our earth around its sun. It brings the seasons: times for planting and for harvest, time to enjoy the warmth of the sun, and time to pull closer to the fire for warmth. We give thanks also for our earth's moon, which causes the tidal coming and going of the oceans.

Bible Voice:

And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky." So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth." And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

Appreciating Voice:

Blessing all the creatures of the earth, the sea, and the sky, God acknowledged that each is sacred.

Bible Voice:

And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals, and everything that creeps upon the ground." And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image."

So God created humankind in his image,

In the image of God he created them

Male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth."

And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.

Appreciating Voice:

We, too, can bless the animals of every kind on the face of the earth. We can recognize the divine, the Creative Spirit, the Spirit of Life in each of them and in each of us. We rejoice in the blessing of being alive and sharing the gift of life with the creatures of this, our planet home.

Bible Voice:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work. And on that day God rested. So God blessed the seventh day.

Discussion: How does the story that you tell affect how you feel about the universe? Does it make a difference in how we act to tell a story of creation in which God repeatedly says how good things are? What kinds of stories of creation encourage us to care for our planet? What kinds of stories do people tell themselves to allow for treating our planet like just something to be used?

Activity: God goes on a creation spree, creating everything from the sky to bugs. One of the gifts of this story is the reminder that we are all creators, and the act of creation continues every day as people imagine and invent.


Possible activities:

 Our Own Creation Story: As a group, invent a creation story. Start with “In the beginning….” and takes turns adding a sentence or two until you have a complete story that is a surprise to everyone.

Dance Your Creation: Put on music (random selections from Gustav Holst’s The Planets at would be good) and have people dance their own creation story as inspired by the music.


Invent: Using a variety of art supplies, create something that the world has never seen before.


Closing: Have everyone complete the sentence: “I have the gift of creating ___________”



Week Three – October 15th

Where did it All Come From-- Darwin


Supplies Needed: Depends on activity(ies) chosen, but could include pictures of animals, paper and paint, or modeling clay.


Chalice Lighting:

We light this flame to guide our search for truth, and to remind us to look on the world with bright eyes, and to meet the world with warm hearts.




We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)


Or, for older kids:


In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.


Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.


Centering: Close your eyes. Take a deep breath, and then let it out. Take a deep breath, and then let it out. Take a deep breath, and then let it out. Try to picture a single drop of blood inside your veins. Picture it moving through your body. Now focus in even closer, so that, in your imagination, you can see a single molecule of water inside that drop of blood. Imagine you can follow that drop of water back in time. Back to the glass of water you drank. Back to the lake or river or underground stream it came from. Back to the cloud that carried it until it fell as rain. Back, across years and generations, evaporating from the ocean and falling as rain, in the city, on the plains, in the jungle, back in time. Back to when that very same molecule of water fell on a dinosaur, back to when that drop of water was part of the soup in which life began, back to before there was even the simplest forms of life on earth. That same molecule, going back and back and back in time, billions of years, going back finally to an atom of hydrogen created in the first seconds of the universe. When you are ready, open your eyes.

Have each person state their cosmic age, adding 13 billion to the number of years they have been alive (“I am 13 billion and eight years old.”)



A couple of weeks ago we talked about the very beginnings of the universe, and how life began. Although what we talked about is the best understanding that scientists today have about how the universe came into being, there are still many questions left to be answered, and astronomers and astrophysicists continue to experiment and explore. Some people, however, have a religious point of view which says that the answers to the origins of life are to be found, not through science, but rather through belief in what is written in the Bible. Last week we talked about that creation story in the Bible. Many Jews and Christians believe that the story of Genesis that begins the Hebrew Bible is just that, a story, told by ancient people to describe the beginnings of the world and the relationship of God to people and the rest of the natural world. Some Christians, however, hold the “fundamentalist” belief that everything in the Bible is literally true – not a story, but actual fact. This week we’re going to have a look at both the story of Genesis and at a Unitarian named Charles Darwin who, more than 150 years ago, came up with an explanation of how people and animals got to be the way they are that Christian fundamentalists have been arguing with ever since.



For a long time people in Europe and people of European descent thought that the creation story in the Bible was a factual description of how all the plants and animals and people of the world came to be. But a man named Charles Darwin, a Unitarian, couldn’t stop wondering about the different plants and animals he saw, and couldn’t stop looking for an explanation of why they were so similar in some ways, and so different in others. Here’s his story:


The Boy Who Collected Beetles

From Stepping Stone Year

by Margaret Gooding

Charles! What have you brought home THIS timer 18-year-old Caroline asked. Charles, who was ten, showed her a cocoon, two pebbles, a piece of fern, and a dead beetle. He was a great collector. He loved to be out In woods and fields. His sharp eyes found butterflies, plants, stones, and other things.

When Charles was nine, he was sent to Dr.Butler’s boarding school. But the school was only about a mile away, so he ran home and back easily.At school, he was taught Latin, Creek, and mathematics, none of which he liked. He worked hard at school, but he didn’t get good marks and often disappointed his father. Dr. Darwin thought Charles needed to know Latin and Creek and mathematics to be successful. He didn’t think Charles’s interest in nature would amount to anything.

When Charles was 16, his father decided that he should go to Edinburgh to study medicine. But after two years the sight of blood made Charles sick, so Dr. Darwin sent him to Cambridge University to become a minister. Charles didn’t much want to be a minister either, but he did want to please his father, so off he went.

Charles didn’t study very hard, though he passed his exams. Instead he became a very enthusiastic beetle collector and was always looking for rare and new kinds. Once when he tore off some old bark from a tree, he found two very special beetles which he instantly grabbed, one in each hand. Then much to his excitement, he saw a third. How to catch it too? He popped the beetle from his right hand in his mouth, and then had to quickly spit it out, for it ejected some really awful tasting liquid which burned his tongue. He lost it, and the other one disappeared.

At that time, the British government was sending Captain Robert Fitzroy around the world to make some new maps of coastlines. A naturalist was needed on the Beagle to gather specimens of plants and animals. Charles Darwin was recommended and was very excited, but his father thought it would be a waste of time. He said, "If you can find any man of common sense who advises you to go, I will give my consent." Josiah Wedgwood II, Charles’s uncle, thought it a splendid opportunity and convinced Dr. Darwin.

Charles sailed from England on December 26,1831, on a five-year adventure that changed his ideas and those of many people In the world.

When Charles set sail, almost everyone in the Christian world believed, as it says in the Bible, that everything looked as it had in the very beginning . . . dogs, cats, worms, butterflies, people, everything. Charles thought so too, but what he saw in the places where the Beagle landed gradually changed his mind.

In Argentina, he found the fossil bones of giant prehistoric beasts that looked like animals he knew, only much larger. One was a giant ground sloth that looked very much like the sloths he saw hanging head down from the branches of trees. Had the giant sloths all died out, or could they be the ancestors of the smaller ones he was seeing?

He spent five weeks on the Galapagos Islands and could hardly believe what he saw: lizards looked like dragons; tortoises required six men to lift them; plants, insects, and birds were like none he’d ever seen. Darwin studied everything. He noticed that the tortoises were different on each island. He saw that the beaks of the finches, which were not the same on each island, seemed to depend on what they found to eat. Those that ate berries had different beaks from those that caught insects. He thought a lot about this. Why was it so, when they were all finches? Was it possible that living things changed in some way when their surroundings changed?

Charles Darwin thought about this through-out his journey. He collected plants and animals and sent them to England. When he returned home, he studied them, performed experiments,and wrote and rewrote what: he discovered. After many years, he published a book, The Origin of the Species. He said living things — like flowers, dogs, butterflies, and all other kinds — have been on earth for thousands and thousands of years, and that they have gradually changed through the generations to be able to live in different kinds of places. The clergy disagreed because what he said didn’t agree with the Bible; some called him the most dangerous man in England! Some scientists disagreed with him, because they believed that whatever they discovered had to fit with the Bible.A few clergy and scientists thought he had made important discoveries, though, and they persuaded others. Later, Charles Darwin was given the Copley medal of the Royal Society of London, the most important science award in England.

Seven years after he was given the medal, Darwin’s book about the origin and evolution of people was published. It was called The Descent of Man People were outraged; "Mr. Darwin suggests we’ve descended from monkeys!" they said. But Charles didn’t say that. He said that thousands and thousands of years ago, there was another creature. Both people and monkeys evolved from that animal, like two different branches growing from the same tree.

Charles Darwin was a very kind and loving man. He and his wife Emma had ten children with whom Charles spent a lot of time playing and talking. In one way this was easy because Charles had inherited money and didn’t have to go to work to earn a living. But it was also hard, for he was often ill.

The Darwins lived in the country in a big house with lots of rooms, a garden, and a greenhouse. Two hours a day were "holy time" when Charles worked on his experiments and writings; no one interrupted him. The rest of his time he shared with his family and friends if he was well enough.

Charles was a collector all of his life and the house was full of all kinds of specimens. On the Beagle, he had begun to collect and study barnacles and he kept this up for many years. Once when one of his children was visiting a friend, he asked, "Where does your father keep his barnacles?" He thought all fathers collected them.

There was a Unitarian Church in Shrewsbury that Charles sometimes attended with his Uncle Erasmus. Not all Unitarians agreed with Charles’s ideas about evolution when the books were published, for most of them, too, thought the Bible was literally true. But the search for truth has always been important to Unitarians and Universalists,and new scientific discoveries changed people’s minds. Darwin’s theories were accepted. Some of his theories have been changed over the years, but that would have been all right with him, for he was always willing to change his opinions if he were proven wrong. He sought the truth, and believed it could be found only with love. He said that prejudice and hate "hinder and blind [people] to truth. A scientist must only love."



Darwin discovered that over time plants and animals evolve to be better suited to their environment, because each animal and plant is born a tiny bit different than any other. The ones which have differences that are best suited for their environment are the most likely to survive and have babies, who are likely to be similar to their parents. In this way, across thousands of years, animals evolve into different variations and whole new species, adapting to the circumstances in which they live.

Do you think that Darwin’s theory of evolution shows that the Genesis story is wrong? Does the Genesis story show that Darwin’s theory is wrong? Is there a way someone could believe both the Genesis story and the theory of evolution?



Possibilities include:

Choose an environment and imagine an animal which is adapted to that environment. Draw your imaginary animal, or model it in clay.

Look at animal pictures in a book, or at plant specimens picked from your yard. Notice similarities and differences. Identify unique characteristics (stripes on a tiger, fancy plumage on a bird, etc.) and try to guess what evolutionary advantage they provide.

Imagine what adaptation you would personally like to have. What physical difference would make you better adapted to your preferred environment?



In honor of the variety of creation, have a closing circle in which each child makes the sound of some animal. (With a very small group a grownup and a kid or two can take turns making noises.)



Week Four—October 22nd  

Where did it All Come From – Other Creation Stories


Supplies Needed: paper and crayons, markers and/or paint


Chalice Lighting:


We light this flame to guide our search for truth, and to remind us to look on the world with bright eyes, and to meet the world with warm hearts.




We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)


Or, for older kids:


In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.


Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.



Sing “We Come from the Mountain”


We come from the mountain
Living in the mountain
Go back to the mountain
Turn the world around

We come from the water
Living in the water
Go back to the water
Turn the world around

We come from the fire
Living in the fire
Go back to the fire
Turn the world around

We come from the sky
Living in the sky
Go back to the sky
Turn the world around

We come from the mountain
Living in the mountain
Go back to the mountain
Turn the world around

Turn the world around
Turn the world around
Turn the world around


See here for tune.



In the past couple of weeks we’ve looked at both the scientific story of where everything came from and at the story used by the Jews and Christians. But there are lots and lots of other myths, from all over the world, about how life started. For thousands and thousands of years, people have told stories that try to explain why things are the way they are. Here, for instance, is a story that comes from the Kono people in Guinea, Africa. It tries to explain not only how the world came to be, but also why there are different races of people, and how death came into the world.



Death, and Life and Death

      In the beginning there was nothing: neither matter nor light existed. In this world lived only Death, whose name is Sa, and his wife and and their only daughter. Needing a place for his family to live, Sa eventually used his magical powers to create a vast sea of mud. They lived in this filth and instablilty for many years.

      Finally the god Alatangana came to visit Sa and his familty. Alatangana was appalled at the mess in which they lived, and he condemned Sa for creating such a dirty place that lacked light and life. To set things right, Alatangana first consolidated the mud into the solid earth. However, this lifeless expanse across which he could now walk still depressed him. First he made plants to cover the new earth, and then animals to live on it. Even Sa realized that Alatangana had made the world a much better place, and he took Alatangana in as his guest.

      Alatangana was wifeless, and eventually he decided he wanted Sa's daughter for his wife. Sa at first was diplomatic in refusing to let Alatangana marry his daughter, but finally he explicitly refused Alatangana's request. Alatangana, however, wooed Sa's daughter, and eventually they eloped to a distant region of the earth.

      Alatangana and his new wife set up a happy home amidst the paradise that Alatangana had created from Sa's sea of mud. They had fourteen children. Seven were girls and seven were boys, and of each four had light skin and three had dark. This did not distress Alatangana, but he and his wife were shocked to find that their chidren spoke different languages that the parents did not understand.

      Frustrated with this state of affairs, Alatangana finally went to Sa for advice. Sa explained that this was a curse that he had put on Alatangana's children because of the way Alatangana had stolen his daughter. Alatangana returned home, and eventually his children went off to found the peoples of the world, the French, the English, and the other European peoples, and the Kono, the Guuerze, the Manon Malinke, and the Toma Yacouba of Africa.

      All these descendents of Alatangana and his wife still lived in darkness, because although Alatangana had made the life that covered the earth, he had could not find a way to make light. As before, his frustration forced him to call on Sa for help, but rather than face his hostile father-in-law, he decided to send two messengers. He chose the tou-tou bird, a small red bird that is one of the first to arise each morning in the forest, and the rooster. These two birds went to ask Sa how the world could be lit so that the new peoples of the earth could see to work.

      When the two presented their problem to Sa, he invited them into his home and taught them a song with which they could call forth daylight. When the two returned to Alatangana, he was furious at the nonsense they reported about a song they had learned. He nearly killed them, but eventually he sent them on their way.

      Not long afterward, the rooster broke into song, and the tou-tou bird sang its first notes. For the first time, dawn began to appear, and soon it was day. The sun that they had called forth made its way across the sky, and when it set the stars appeared to provide faint light at night. Every day since has begun the same way, with the call of the tou-tou bird and the cry of the rooster.

      Alatangana was grateful for the gift that he now realized Sa had given to him and his children. Sa was not long, however, in calling for payment of the debt. He came to Alatangana and pointed out the good things that he had done despite Alatangana's theft of his daughter. Now he demanded that in return he could, whenever he liked, claim any of Alatangana's offspring. Knowing his guilt and his debt to Sa, Alatangana agreed, and so it is that Alatangana's children, the human people, must meet with Death whenever he calls for them.


If you were creating a story about how the world and life and people came to be here, what would you want the story to explain? What would you want it to tell people about what life is like?



Imagine that you belong to a tribe of people either very long ago or very far away from people who do not belong to your tribe. You do not know what scientists have discovered about the origins of life, and you’ve never heard anyone else’s story about how life began. What story would you tell to explain where everything comes from? Use simple pictures to tell your story, as the earliest people did when they drew on the walls of caves.



Have participants share their stories aloud, showing the illustrations.


Week Five—October 29th

Worship – Halloween/Samhain


Supplies needed: coat rack with a Black Robe on it and a black hat, a table with stuff that looks like food, an old doll (props for story – optional), corn or poppyseed muffins (optional)



Today we will be celebrating Halloween – but in a different way than you might imagine. Our Halloween celebration is based on the old pagan holiday of Samhain (pronounced SA-wun). Samhain marks the halfway point between autumn and winter, and was believed to be the time of the year when the separation between the living and the dead was at its thinnest. So Samhain was a time for honoring the dead, and the connections between life and death. Our worship today centers on an old European story which touches on those themes.


(Note: this intergenerational service is adapted from one by the Rev. Greg Ward which appears on He adapted it from a re-telling of a traditional story by Starhawk which appears in her book Circle Round)


MUSICAL PRELUDE (music to “Listen, Listen, Listen.”)

Listen, listen, listen to my heart’s song
Listen, listen, listen to my heart’s song
I will never forget you, I will never forsake you
I will never forget you, I will never forsake you


(see here for the tune)


Service Leader:

(begins by singing “Listen, Listen, Listen.”)

Listen and you will here a very famous fairy tale that has been told throughout the world. Though none of the characters are real, and little of what happens in the story really happens in real life - the story is true in its ability to understand important things about our lives.


Circle round and I'll tell you a scary story for Halloween.

Once long ago, in a small village in Ireland, there lived a merchant and his wife. They had one daughter, named Vasalisa, who was both kind and beautiful.

Her mother, who always wore green and white, loved her very much, and dressed Vasalisa in the same because she was proud of her daughter and wanted others to see they were together.

They might have lived happily ever after, except that Vasalisa's mother was very ill. None of the healers had been able to cure her. But before she died, she called Vasalisa to her bedside.

“My daughter,” she cried, “my greatest grief is that I must leave you like this, before you are grown, without your mother's protection. But here is my last gift for you. Take this doll, who, like you and I, wears green and white, which are the colors of our ancestors. She is my blessing to you and she will guide you and protect you. Keep her close to you, keep her hidden, and feed her whenever you can. Now kiss me for the last time.”

Music (all sing “Listen, Listen, Listen.” Fade after one verse)

Vasalisa kissed her, and her mother died. For a long time Vasalisa and her father grieved and mourned. But life goes on and Vasalisa grew until she was almost a woman herself.

Now in that time there was a custom that as a girl was about to become a woman, she went away from their family and stayed with the wise woman of the forest. So, one day, Vasalisa's father took her out into the woods, to the small cottage where the wise woman lived, and left her there.

“You must call me stepmother” the wise woman said, “for I will be like another mother to you.” And she motioned to two other young women in the house who were slightly older than Vasalisa. “And you must call them stepsisters, for they will be like sisters to you. You will work very hard here, but you will learn what you need to know to become a woman and to carry your own fire. But to find and hold your own fire, you will have to overcome some frightening tasks. Whether or not you will be up to these tests, who can say?”


We light this lantern to shine brightly in the darkness and to remind us that not everything that appears scary on the outside is really scary on the inside. Learning to tell the difference helps us find our own fire.


Storyteller: Vasalisa did work hard. The stepmother taught her all the arts and skills of women in that time; spinning and weaving, growing food, gathering herbs, wisdom about the earth and her body. There was also all the cooking, cleaning and the usual housework to do. As Vasalisa was the youngest, much of the hardest work fell to her. She did it all cheerfully, without complaining, even though sometimes she was so tired she could hardly drag herself up to the little loft where she sleep. But always, she fed her doll and whispered a little prayer to her mother who she missed.

Vasalisa loved learning and she was certainly learning a lot. Everyday she figured out something new she could do and began to feel confident and proud of herself. Only one thing worried her and that was when the stepsisters hinted at the terrible challenge that she would have to meet.

“To be a woman means more than being able to spin and weave and gather herbs,” the elder stepsister would say. “to be a real woman, you must own your own fire. And there's only one place you can get that fire.”

“Where?” Vasalisa would ask anxiously. “Tell me where!”

“I can't tell you - it would scare you too much!” And she would run away laughing.

“Where is the only place fire can be found?” Vasalisa asked turning to the younger stepsister.

She smiled a secret, knowing smile. “You'll find out soon enough,” she said. “Remember, only a very brave woman has her own fire.”

Vasalisa didn't feel very brave. In fact, as the time of leaving grew closer and closer, she became more and more frightened, for she knew that the day of her challenge could not be long in coming. But she said nothing to the stepmother or the two stepsisters, because she didn't want them to think she was a coward. The only person she confided in was her doll, whom she talked to faithfully every night as she fed her the crumbs she'd saved from dinner.

“Don't be afraid, Vasalisa,” the doll reassured her. “When the time comes to face your challenge, I will help.” That made her feel a little better. But only a little.

One night, as a cold wind howled outside, while Vasalisa and the stepsisters were all sitting and working by candlelight, and a low fire burned in the hearth, the stepmother came in through the door and a draft of wind snuck inside and blew out the candles. She closed the door and the fire went out.

“The fire has gone out!” the stepmother exclaimed. “And the room has grown dark! Who will go and get fire so that we can relight the candles?”

In those days, there weren't any matches or lighters. They hadn't been invented yet. The only way to light fire was to borrow a glowing coal from somebody else.

“My needle gives enough light for me to see by,” said the oldest stepsister. And she showed a needle at the end of some thread that seemed to glow brightly in the dark.

“My loom gives enough light for me to see by,” said the younger stepsister, and as she pulled the rack of the loom down the tapestry she was weaving began to shine.

“Vasalisa,” the stepmother said, “you must go and get fire. The time has come for you to face your challenge.”

“Where must I go?” Vasalisa asked, trying not to show how frightened she was.

“There is only one place to get fire,” the stepmother said. “You must go to the house of the Baba Yaga, in the heart of the forest, and ask her for fire.

“Is that the only place?!?” Vasalisa pleaded. She had heard stories of the Baba Yaga. The people in the village said she was an ugly fearsome creature. Some said she had only one eye that saw everything and long yellow teeth. Some even hinted that she would eat little children.

Vasalisa was truly scared, but without saying a word, she went up to her loft, got her warm cloak and fed her doll.

“Oh doll, I am so scared,” she confessed. “I'm not sure that I really want to be a woman. Maybe I should just stay a little girl for the rest of my life.”

“Don't be afraid,” the doll said. “Put me in your pocket, and I will help you.”

So she did. As Vasalisa left the cottage and went out into the forest, the night was dark and the wind was blowing hard. Vasalisa didn't know which way to go, but she began walking in the direction that seemed best to her, and she could feel her doll nodding in agreement. She walked on and on through the dark and scary woods, and each time she came to a fork in the road she chose a direction and then asked her doll if her choice was right. Sometimes she was right, sometimes she was wrong, but always, the doll guided her. And so she walked all through the long night.


Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won
Many stones can form an arch, singly none, singly none
And by union what we will, can be accomplished still
Drops of water turn a mill, singly none, singly none

One by one our fears subside when we try, when we try
To rise above the fearsome tide and get by, and get by
All the greatest strength we've known,
came from moments when we've grown
Courage comes from what we've sown,
when we try, when we try

(See here for tune)


Service Leader: Like Vasalisa, we've all walked in some scary woods and survived. During the scary parts, it helps to share our concerns. When we have made it safely, we yearn to share the joy of what we've discovered. Now is the time that you may share a joy or a sorrow from the past week.


Storyteller: Vasalisa walked for a long way. Just as she was beginning to tire, she heard the noise of hoofbeats behind her, and a horse and rider all in white dashed past her. Dawn came and the sky grew light. Again she heard hoofbeats and a horse and rider all in red ran by. The sun rose. Vasalisa walked on and came to a clearing. In front of her was a high hedge made of bones. Atop each post was a skeleton head. Behind her she heard hoofbeats and a rider and horse, all in black, appeared and leaped over the hedge.

Vasalisa realized that this is where the Baba Yaga must live. Even though the house was terrifying and the riders were scary, she felt a calm in her bones. She felt the doll by her side and there was no alarm in her heart. She didn't know what would happen but she trusted her doll to help.

Suddenly she heard a sound like the wailing of all the winds in the world, and the Baba Yaga herself appeard. She was truly a fearsome sight. He clothes were black and her hair hung down in long grey locks. Vasalisa looked hard at her face, expecting to see the horrible eye and the long yellow teeth, but it seemd to her that the Baba Yaga's face kept changing, so that she couldn't have said if it was ugly or beautiful, old or young.

The Baba sniffed the air and wrinkled her nose. “What is that smell I smell?” she cackled. I smell an Irish child!

“It is I,” Vasalisa said stepping forward. “I am Vasalisa, and I have come to ask you to give me fire.”

The Baba Yaga examined her closely. “I know you,” she said. “I know your people. Come into my house. There you will work for me. IF you work well, I will give you fire. If you do not, maybe you'll stay forever, or maybe I might just eat you up.” Vasalisa looked at the bones on the ledge and wondered if they might be other girls who had come to Baba Yaga before. “Open up wide, Gate!” the Baba Yaga commanded and the gate flew open. She entered and Vasalisa followed.

Inside the hedge was the strangest house she had ever seen. It seemed to, mysteriously, revolve around and around. “Be still house!” Baba Yaga commanded. The door opened and they went inside.

Immediately Baba Yaga sat in a large chair. Opposite the chair was an open hearth, with a brick oven build into the wall. “There is food in the oven,” the Baba Yaga said. “Bring it to me.”

Vasalisa opened the oven door and there she found enough food for ten ordinary people. There was borscht and soup and roast chickens and potatoes and a whole side of beef. She served the food the Baba Yaga, who ate it all with great enjoyment and no table manners whatsoever! She slurped the soup and crackled the bones between her teeth. And she left nothing for Vasalisa but a crust of bread and a few picked over bones.

“I'm going out,” the Baba Yaga said when she had finished. “I'll be back early in the morning. While I am gone, I want you to clean this house from top to bottom, scrubbing it so that not a speck of dirt remains. Cook my breakfast and my midday meal, and be sure to cook enough, for I eat as much as any ten ordinary people. Oh, yes - and behind the house, in my granary, is a pile of corn as big as a barn. Sort the mildewed corn from the good corn, and leave it in two neat piles. If you work well, I will be pleased with you, and if you do not.” the Baba Yaga just smiled and Vasalisa felt herself shudder!” And with that the Baba Yaga left in a hurry.

Poor Vasalisa! Already she was so tired from walking all night. She knew she could never do all that the Baba Yaga had asked of her by morning. Why had she ever come? She would end up in this place forever! And she was so hungry! Nevertheless, she saved one corner of her small crust of bread and fed her doll.

“I might as well begin,” she told herself, “even if I cannot finish.” So she began to clean up the supper dishes, and to scrub the table and the floor, while tears dripped from her eyes.


Service Leader: The Baba Yaga isn't real. Or is she? How many times have we seen our lives made uncomfortable by impossible tasks placed in our way. And we've despaired, “why is the world so wicked sometimes?” And at times like these, we look at the world and wonder if its face is indeed, beautiful or ugly. Are there times you've faced lately that have made you wonder if the world was ugly? Who showed faith in you and helped you, like the doll, persevere? How did you find the courage to start and face what seemed impossible?


MUSIC Step by Step (see above)


Storyteller: As Vasalisa wiped the tears from her eyes, she began to clean up the dishes and the piles of bones from dinner.

“Why do you cry?” she heard in the soft voice of her doll.

“Oh doll, I will never finish all this work, and the Baba Yaga will be back and something horrible will happen.

“Don't be afraid,” the doll said. “Didn't I tell you I would help you? Go to sleep and get some rest. The morning is cleverer than the evening.”

So Vasalisa took the advice of her doll and lay down on blanket in the corner of the room. Instantly she was asleep, and she didn't wake until the hooves of the white rider pounded past the window of the house. She awoke to the dawn. The house was clean, the food was cooked, the corn was sorted. While she slept, the doll had done it all.

The red rider thundered past the house, and the sun rose. With a sound like the wailing of a thousand winds, the Baba Yaga appeared, coming through the gate in the hedge of bones. She burst in the room.

“Breakfast, lunch and dinner!” she cried out. Vasalisa served her all the food the doll had cooked, enough for ten ordinary people. The Baba Yaga ate it all, leaving Vasalisa only a few spoonfuls of porridge.

“The house looks clean,” the Baba Yaga said. “And the corn?”

“All sorted. Every last grain.”

Baba Yaga shrugged. She looked a little frustrated. “Well, I guess I won't eat you just yet, the Baba Yaga said. She whistled, and out of the air three pair of hands appeared. They flew through the air bringing all the good corn in from the granary and using the mortar and pestle to grind it into meal.

A clatter of hooves was heard outside, and the black rider dashed by. Night fell.

“I am going out, the Baba Yaga said. “While I am gone I want you to clean the house again so not a speck of dirt remains. Cook my breakfast lunch and dinner and be sure to cook enough for ten ordinary people. And in the granary is a pile of poppy seeds - bigger than three barns - I want you to sort the seed from the dirt and leave it in two neat piles. If you work well, I will be pleased. And if you do not - maybe I will eat you for breakfast. And with that, she left.

Poor Vasalisa! She knew that she could never do all the work the Baba Yaga had left for her. It seemed she would never get out of this house and never be able to return to her village as a woman. Sighing, she fed her daoll and then picked up a broom and began to sweep the floor. “I might as well begin,” she told herself, “even if I can't finish.”

“Vasalisa, why are you sighing?” her doll spoke up softly. “Didn't I tell you I would help you? Go to sleep and get some rest. Remember, the morning is cleverer than the evening.

So Vasalisa lay down, and in an instant she was asleep. She woke only when the white rider clattered past the window of the house, and dawn came. Again the doll had done all the work while she slept.

The red rider dashed by, and the sun rose. With a sound like the wailing of a thousand winds, the Baba Yaga rode in through the gate of the hedge in her mortar, climbed out, and came into the house.

“Breakfast, lunch and dinner!” she cried. And Vasalisa fed her all the food that the doll had cooked.

“The house looks clean,” the Baba Yaga said. “And the poppy seeds?”

“All sorted. Every last one, “Vasalisa responded. The Baba Yaga whistled and the three pair of hands appeared and ground the seeds into oil.

“You have indeed worked well,” the Baba Yaga said. “I am pleased with you, so I will let you ask me some questions, because I am sure you must have many. But remember, too many questions can make you old before your time.”

The doll stirred in Vasalisa's pocket, and she thought to ask about he riders. “Who are the riders, the white, the red and the black?”

“The white rider is my dawn, who brings the luck and willingness to begin. The red rider is my rising sun, my day, who brings the arrogance and confidence to try what seems beyond possibility. The black rider is my night, who carries the wisdom of letting go. For you know that I am the grandmother of time. Now, do you have more questions?”

Vasalisa wanted to ask about the three pairs of hands, but she felt the doll jumping in her pocket, and so, instead, she replied, “No thank you. As you said, too many questions will make me old before my time.”

“You are wise for one so young. Now I will ask you a question. Look into my face, and tell me how I look to you. Be honest, now. Am I very ugly?”

Vasalisa felt in her pocket, but the doll remained still. She looked into the Baba Yaga's face, but for all the world she couldn't have told her what she saw.

“Well, have you no answer?”

If I answer wrong, she may eat me, Vasalisa worried. But I don't know what to say. So I had better tell the truth. Outside the hooves of the black horse clattered. The black rider went by and it was night.

“Your face changes, Baba Yaga. I could not say whether you are ugly or beautiful, old or young.”

“My one fearsome eye, my long yellow teeth - are they not horrible to you?”

“All my life, that is how you were described to me. But in truth, that is not what I see.”

“Ah, child, come closer, and although you haven't asked, I will show you a mystery. You see, once I had a beautiful face. Once all people showered me with praise and gifts. They knew me as the grandmother of time itself, and when their time on earth was over, they came to reflect, to weigh the days of their lives and to rest - a rest greater than any they had known where they could set down all their burdens. Here, I helped them sort through their lives, separating what was sweet from what was spoiled. And when they were ready I ground all the hopes and hardships, all the good and bad of their lives into their original elements so they could be reborn. That is why my house revolves and revolves. Enter the house of death, and turn around and come out through the door of life. Enter life through the door of birth, and round you come through the gate of death. Only when you know this mystery can you find your own fire.”

“Why do people fear you? Vasalisa asked.

“I am not frightening except to those who have mistakenly assumed that all death is bad,” the Baba Yaga replied. “So death became a terrifying and ugly thing. They fear my teeth because they think that death will devour them. They fear my eye because they think death is always looking at them.

As she listened to the Baba Yaga speak, Vasalisa became less and less afraid. She remembered her mother and the blessing she gave her before she died.

And the doll in her pocket. And she looked up at the Baba Yaga and saw, not the horrible yellow teeth, but her mother's smile. Not the one fearsome eye, but the soft brown eyes of her mother. And suddenly she could see that the Baba Yaga was not frightening. She wasn't even real at all. She was just an old coat rack with a large black robe hanging over it. And when she removed the heavy black coat she saw what she'd been looking for. Inside a carved out pumpkin was a glowing coal. The fire she had come for in the first place.

Vasalisa began to feel much more at ease. But just as she began to feel more at home in this strange place the Baba Yaga's face appeared back in the coat and startled her. She grabbed the pumpkin lantern and turned and fled as fast as she could into the forest. The doll guided her so that she took the right turn at every crossroad. The lantern glowed fiercely bright and lit the path all the way back to the cottage.


by Joyce Poley

One more step, we will take one more step
'til there is peace for us and every-one, we will take one more step
One more word, we will say one more word
'till every word is hear by every-one, we will say one more word
One more prayer, we will say one more prayer
'til every prayer is shared by every-one, we will say one more prayer
One more song, we will sing one more song
'til every song is sung by every-one, we will sing one more song

(See here  for tune)


Storyteller: When she got back to the cottage, she found it dark and shuttered. She opened the door and found it empty. The stepmother and stepsisters were gone.

“Your time of training is over,” the doll whispered to her. “You are a woman now, with your own fire, your own hearth, your own knowledge of the mysteries. It is time to return to your village.

Vasalisa nodded. She would return to her village. She had her own fire now. She would live on her own, or perhaps she would take in some of the older women in the village and help them sort through their lives. With her own fire she would be able to spin flax into the finest thread, to weave that thread into the finest cloth and sew that cloth into the garments that would keep the world warm. That is just what she would do, until it was time to do something else - fall in love, maybe, or travel to faraway lands, fight against injustice, end the world of wicked and frightening ways, or any of the many things a woman can do when she carries her own fire.

And so she did.

If desired, close by sharing corn muffins or poppyseed muffins.